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Healing Damaged Self-Esteem

By Gerti Schoen, MA, LP

Finding one’s own truth and expressing it is the most important path to heal damaged self-esteem, and to live a meaningful life.

We all are such phonies – from time to time. We compliment the neighbor on their new flower bed, even though we find it hideous. We agree with a new boss, although he has no idea what he’s talking about. We lend support to a desperate friend, when we know that all that can be done is to accept the loss.

So many of us have learned how to please others and don’t even know what our own stance looks like. Or worse, we know exactly what is looks like and can’t find the courage or the heart to be sincere about it.

We so often want to protect another person from hurt that we start bending our own convictions.

Honesty does not have to be brutal. It can be spoken earnestly and with warmth, without giving in to anger or inflicting needless pain.

4 Comments to
Healing Damaged Self-Esteem

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  1. This article is significant for focusing on a wide-spread cultural phenomenon I described in my book,”Emotional Honesty & Self-Acceptance”. While we often consider it necessary to lie to others to get along, we also lose self-acceptance by lying to our self about our emotions and feelings. The late psychiatrist and author David Viscot’s last book, “Emotional Resilience” points out that being dishonest about our real feelings occurs even in therapy. But, the most critical factor in self-acceptance is not being able to acknowledge underlying emotional pain — “those difficult feelings” are hard to accept. Not going through the coping process that allows us to accept everyday painful experience can lead to even greater emotional distress. Emotional dishonesty has to do with “covering up” emotional wounds and what we really care about. That means we can’t acknowledge love of our self or others. Instead, our deepest feelings are harbored deep inside. We become “emotional imposters” and lose sight of our authentic self. When hidden feelings become infected with anger, resentment and hate it’s hard to related honestly to one’s self and others. What we refer to as “self-esteem” is not always about self-confidence. It is aa sign of not feeling we are “a lovable and acceptable person”. This is different than being popular or loved and accepted by others — but rejected our feelings and our self. There are four universal “core emotionally wounding experiences” inevitable in life: loss, rejection, betrayal and humiliation. We simply can’t accept our self when we can’t cope with these painful feelings that reside deep inside emotionally wounded youth, who grow up to be filled with anger, sadness and an underlying desire to harm our self and others.

    • Very good point. In clinical settings, we call it “pathological accommodation”. You explain beautifully how it comes about and how it comes from a wounded place. Very insightful

  2. Thank You for writing this. I spend alot of time worrying about the people in my life that I want to make happy and I feel guilty about doing anything that makes me happy.

    • It takes a lot of courage to admit this to oneself. It’s the first step in the process to finding your own path

  3. Hi Gerti,
    It’s wonderful that you bring this issue to awareness. You are so right that we can only offer to others what we are able to give to ourselves. The most important (and difficult) truth-telling is telling the truth to ourselves. And you are correct, that takes courage. But there is the payoff of deepening compassion for ourselves and that deepening compassion spreads to all with whom we have connection.

    One of my recent posts on Your Tango speaks to the issue of compassion and shame:

    Thanks for all you are doing in the world!

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The Gentle Self Buddha Betrayed
Gerti Schoen is the author of The Gentle Self
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